Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has renewed calls for scrapping the most polluting diesel cars and giving drivers cash incentives to switch to cleaner vehicles as part of the evidence he gave to the Environmental Audit Committee yesterday (September 10).

The Mayor is supporting proposals for the Government to help motorists by offering between a £1,000 and £2,000 grant per vehicle for the most polluting diesels which are more than 12 months old. The Mayor called this a brilliant opportunity to support the British car industry and promote the early uptake of ultra low emission vehicles.

Charging more-polluting diesel cars is a key part of the Mayor’s proposals for an Ultra Low Emission Zone, which could be introduced in central London from 2020, subject to consultation.

However, the Mayor believes that it is only fair that Government provides support to people who have bought these vehicles in good faith to switch to cleaner alternatives.

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is set to take London two-thirds of the way to compliance with EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and will encourage all vehicles in central London to be ultra low or zero emission from 2020. It is key part of his newly published Transport Emission Road Map which sets out how London could meet EU legal limits by 2020 – more than ten years ahead of the current Government projections for compliance – as long as the European Commission and Government commit to match the Mayor’s ambitious policies.

The Transport Emission Road Map calls on Government to amend fiscal incentives, launch a national vehicle scrappage scheme and support more sustainable modes of travel. It also sets out proposals for Low Emission Neighbourhoods where new technology will be used to switch zero-emission capable buses and taxis into their zero-emission electric mode, reducing emissions in some of the most polluted parts of London where there are large numbers of people exposed. There are also proposals to tighten the standards for the Londonwide Low Emission Zone from 2025.

The Mayor also welcomed a new comprehensive study comparing air quality in 36 world and European cities based on pollutants like particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The study commissioned by the Mayor, undertaken by leading consultancy AMEC and peer-reviewed by prominent air quality experts and academics, developed three indices which ranked cities based on citywide emissions, transport-focused emissions and using a special health-weighted index.

London ranked 9th on the health impacts index, 15th on the citywide index and 17th on the traffic focused index.

Vancouver is rated the city with the best air quality and Cairo or Mumbai is rated the worst. The EU cities with the best air quality using all three indices is Stockholm.

Johnson, said: “I’ve put in place the most ambitious and comprehensive set measures any world city has ever seen to tackle air pollution in London. The health and well-being of all Londoners is paramount, which is why I’m creating the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone, delivering our cleanest ever bus fleet, and I’m backing the call for financial incentives to help motorists scrap the most polluting diesels. I hope the committee today can see in London we are doing everything in our power to address air quality and with the support of government and the EU, we can accelerate the pace to meet legal limits for NO2 and ensure Londoners live in a healthy, thriving environment. Our efforts have already been recognised in a newly published study, which has ranked London’s air quality 9th best out of 36 world and European cities.”

Professor Helen Apsimon; Professor of Air Pollution Studies, Imperial College London (also member of the Davies Commission Expert Advisory Panel) said: “It is good to see a systematic comparison of air pollution monitoring data assembled for different cities both in the EU and worldwide. The resulting ranking clearly shows that London is not the best or worst of the cities compared, but lies somewhere in the middle of the European cities.”